Yabia – Ancient voyaging food

Research for the Vunabaka story and the creation of new masi motifs took me to Solevu village on Malolo island. While I had requested to meet with the women, I ended up in a circle of elders, and a wonderful story-teller Orisi. whom I found to have paternal links to- (but that is another story entirely)


Here, I discovered an ancient food used during times of traditional voyaging. The yabia is a tuber not unlike potatoes, was once plentiful, growing wild along the shores of Vunabaka. It served as a binding agent and a natural preservative, and when prepared correctly could give longevity to root crops for up to a year! No wonder it was the perfect food during our voyaging times of discovering new islands.

Yabia is now extinct from Solevu village, so I set out to find the plant on the mainland. My only leads were that it grew near the ocean and resembled celery, with an upright green stalk and leaves that grew only on the top of the stalk. A request on the Fiji Seed Sharing Facebook page found me a photograph of a cultivated crop and a Teitei farms also shared a plant growing wild in their garden.

A variety of Yabia plant growing wild on Teitei farms in SIgatoka

Now equipped with some images, a new masi motif was created to become part of a Tapa wall hanging to represent Solevu Village and her stories.

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New tapa kesa motif of the yabia plant